5S - Bringing Lean Thinking to the Field

January 4, 2020

How can 5S benefit the construction industry?  It improves productivity, quality, safety and schedule. It is a core lean method to bring Lean thinking to front line workers in the field. It is simple. It costs almost nothing. And you can start doing it today. 5S is a method to keep our workplace organized, clean, safe and efficient. It is called 5S because each word starts with “S”:

STORT -Determine what is needed and remove everything else

STRAIGHTEN- Set in order. A place for everything and keep it there.

SHINE -Clean and keep it clean… all the time.

STANDARDIZE- Create standard ways to stay clean and organized.

STUSTAIN- The self-discipline to keep it going

Some construction organizations enact this on site using three basic rules: (1) Nothing hits the ground, (2) Everything on wheels, and (3) Just-in-time delivery. It keeps work areas clear. It keeps material close to the work. And it keeps excess materials and tools off-site and out of the way.

It is Lean because it helps eliminate waste and makes work flow efficiently. But more than that, it is a basis for continuous improvement. How so? It involves everyone in the effort to improve their work area. It gets workers thinking and involved in improvement.  It generates collaborative thinking and action. So, it becomes a foundation for building a culture of Lean problem solvers.

The key is what you focus on. If you think of 5S as simply rules to keep clean, it won't do much. If you think of 5S as a collaborative method to improve our work, you have started the engine of continuous improvement.

The best teacher for 5S is "learning by doing". At Milestone Lean Consulting, we use hands-on 5S training to build Lean thinkers.


David MacKay
Let me help you improve your schedule, productivity, quality safety and lower costs with Lean.
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